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Monday, September 13, 2021

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow - Review


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OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Alix E. Harrow has been a student and a teacher, a farm-worker and a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. She's lived in tents and cars, cramped city apartments and lonely cabins, and spent a summer in a really sweet '79 VW Vanagon. She has library cards in at least five states. Now she's a full-time writer living with her husband and two semi-feral kids in Kentucky. Her short fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Apex, and other venues.

FORMAT/INFO: A Spindle Splintered will be published by Tordotcom on October 5th, 2021. It is 128 pages split over 11 chapters. It is told in first person from Zinnia's point of view. It will be released in hardcover and ebook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:
 Zinnia Gray has spent her whole life knowing she is dying. She was born with a mutation caused by an industrial accident, and no one with her condition has lived past 22. It’s made Zinnia morbidly obsessed with the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, seeking refuge from various stories of a doomed girl who can never outrun her curse. But on her 21st birthday, Zinnia accidentally transports herself into one of those fairy tales, interrupting a sleeping beauty before she can prick her finger. Determined that this story will have a happy ending, Zinnia convinces the princess to confront the witch and break the curse once and for all. But she’ll have to act quickly: without her meds, Zinnia’s racing against a clock before her own curse comes to claim her.

A Spindle Splintered is a fun little adventure that was just missing that something extra to make it truly pack a punch. I’m genuinely struggling to decide if this is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me,” as the emotional beats are there for those who can connect with them. This is as much a feminist breakdown of fairy tale tropes as it is a story of a young woman’s story of trying to come to terms with a love she’s found suffocating. Her whole life has been defined by her medical condition, to the point that it's soured her relationship with her parents, who she feels are preventing her from living. As Zinnia helps Princess Primrose fight her own curse and societal expectations, she’s also working through her own feelings about her impending death and the life she’s tried to live. It has the potential to be poignant, though I found the novella length left me breezing through the plot without the emotional hooks connecting. That said, I did tear up at the end, so on some level, it did get to me.

Readers of Harrow’s other works should note that that this is a departure from her more formal and elegant prose that defined such books as The Ten Thousand Doors of January. This is a thoroughly modern tale, with text messages and slang and pop culture references completely grounded in the here and now. That doesn’t go away once Zinnia jumps to fairy tale land, as she discovers her cell phone still works perfectly fine, allowing her to hash through things with her best friend Charm.

CONCLUSION: A Spindle Splintered is an easily devoured novella – I read it in a single sitting – that will likely enchant the right audience. It’s the first in what the author hopes will be a series, with a sequel novella already announced. If lovingly modern lampooning of fairy tale tropes is your cup of tea, this new Fractured Fables series will be right up your alley.

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